This weekend we took our 25 foot Contender center-console boat out for the first time in almost six weeks. We had been getting rain off and on, mostly on, for the entire week. We were getting accustomed to looking out the window and seeing things like this approaching from the North:
Some of the storms included thunder and lightning, and while we enjoy a good thunder-boomer we do have one family member who self-ratchets his stress levels up every time he hears thunder. Dooley the Demented cannot abide thunder in any form. If he sees a flash of lightning on the horizon, he starts worrying about the thunder before it even gets here. This time of year, he will run under a chair if I even take a flash photo. He just KNOWS the rumble is on the way.
He won't even watch the Weather Channel on television on the off chance that someone will mention thunder going on somewhere else.
A few days ago I was preparing lunch while a relatively mild thunderstorm was going on. Dooley the Disabled planted himself between my feet and the kitchen counter. If I walk away, he tries to get between my feet as I am walking. It makes it a real pain to try to work on the counter top with a shivering, slobbering, useless blob of dog constantly trying to put himself between me and the solid structure:
I dropped a small cube of cheese on the floor thinking that would distract him long enough for me to finish making the sandwiches. In that photo, you can see the little bit of cheese just under his very nose. He ignored the cheese! This is somewhat startling. Normally, Dooley the Devourer would cheerfully sign up for an Arctic Expedition on the mere promise of an eventual possibility of a piece of cheese like that. But during a thunderstorm he was too worried and upset to even notice it. I had time to shuffle over to another counter (shivering dog shuffling between my feet all the way) and shuffle back to the cheese, and take this photo, and he still had not eaten it. That's pretty much paranoia in it's purest form.
Anyhow, after days of this kind of malarky with bad weather and a drama-queen of a dog to deal with, we finally saw some sunshine, and not a moment too soon:
And we also thought we should visit Pine Cay to check on some repairs. We really didn't need to check on them, but it aided our excuse to take the boat out. I am pretty good at building excuses, justifying what we want to do anyhow.
What clinched it was that I had emailed my doctor's office and asked if I could go diving (we are out of conch chili) and was told "NOT FOR SIX WEEKS". So I was feeling a little mistreated, sorry for myself, and determined to at least get near the ocean. My artificial knee doc told me to stay OUT of the water. He didn't tell me to stay OFF the water as well. Then we were driving down the Leeward "Highway", and looking out over Grace Bay when we spotted what appeared to be a sloop way out on the reef. Now THAT clinched what was already a foregone conclusion. Boat Trip!
We didn't bother taking many photos of the trip from our marina to the reef, as we have taken so many of those so many times before. But using Google Earth, this is the route we took from the boatyard to Pine Cay. You can see we detoured quite a bit to look for that sloop on the reef;
And we found it. Not hard to spot, really, if you stay close to the reef. La Gringa was the photographer for most of today, and she managed to get this photo as we were approaching the reef:
Aren't they supposed to have the sails up and be moving along briskly when they are at that angle? Happy faces, grins all salty and stuff? I suspect no grins on this boat lately.
We were in about 15 feet of water at that point, and the sloop is obviously in less than six, sitting right on top of the reef. Ouch. We suspect that they were trying to sail through one of the two small cuts in the reef there, which you can see on the Google Earth photo. They didn't make it. But this is a very tricky area for boats if you don't know the waters here. This was a very calm day, but we don't really get many calm days here. Not totally calm, like this anyhow. I hope the owners manage to get it pulled off the rocks before the next blow, because there will be six to eight foot breakers on that very spot as soon as the winds pick back up. ( they are blowing hard as I am writing this, in fact. We will go see if we can get a photo from the beach later today).
After taking about a dozen photos of the boat we turned around and headed back NorthEast toward Pine Cay. We saw a small patrol boat headed out across our bow, and I said to myself "Self, surely they couldn't be interested in our little boat..."
Ah, but they were. La Gringa had the camera, and managed to snap this "You gotta be kidding me!" moment just right as the police pulled in behind us with their lights flashing:
We realized that we were pretty obvious, being the only boat out there at the moment, and having two outriggers stuck up in the air. This is in the Princess Alexandra National Marine Park, and there is NO fishing allowed here.
As the small patrol boat pulled alongside to take a look at us, we realized that we know these guys. But they are looking at the boat and haven't recognized us yet:
Then when they pulled alongside, La Gringa said "Hello Paul" and they suddenly realized who we were. Paul (the taller officer) is actually who signed our boat registration papers in his office back in November. He had just never seen the new boat. And it still has Tim's Florida registration number on the bow, which probably confused things a little.
But the moment they got close enough to see down into our boat, we had our spokesman explain what we were doing, and that we were, indeed, completely legal:
I am not sure exactly what was said, but the next thing we knew, Dooley the Determined had boarded the government boat, and the Police had taken our little crew members into temporary custody. In fact, at his insistence, he was physically frisked repeatedly:
So, while the police searched the dog, we discussed which boat was whose, with our last boat now being Preacher's property, and this being our 'new' boat, etc. I think it's all straight now. But I was glad I had the paperwork with me. Sure makes things go smoother to be legal. It didn't hurt that the officer is a dog lover, and Dooley is always up for a good frisk and belly scratch.
After that we made our way on up to Pine Cay without further incident. Well, without incident except for Dooley the Delighted deciding to jump overboard at the marina and swim ashore:
We also noticed someone has decorated the little fish cleaning station at the dock there:
We managed to bum a ride to La Gringa's family vacation home. The hurricanes Hannah and Ike last September had severely damaged the porch structure of the house, and we have contracted a local building company to repair it. The same company we bought the second Land Rover from, in fact. (Hey, we do what we can to help support local businesses during this economic mess.)
We found that they had removed the old damaged structure, which covered the porch:
And looking at the pile of twenty-year old wooden beams, we could see that they were pretty well-rotted in places even before the storm damage. It was time:
And we were happy to see that the new lumber has been delivered and is already primed and cut to shape:
Now they just have to assemble it. We'll go back over this next weekend and see how they did.
Another reason we had gone out to Pine Cay this weekend was because the front door needed sanding and staining. The weather here is hard on exposed woodwork, and we had not attended to this door in two seasons. So Saturday we sanded it smooth, and Sunday we came back with some stain and brushes and while I worked on the boat La Gringa worked on the door. Looks pretty nice, now:
Those four wingnuts you see in the wall around the door are to secure a sheet of fitted plywood over it for hurricanes.
Any of you guys out there know a good paint to cover aluminium with the anodizing flaking off? (Brenton? Any ideas?)
I was having some issues with our outboard motor, so we headed home while there was still plenty of daylight left. We ran into some chop going back, but that's usually the situation on the windward, Caicos Bank side of the islands. I know it doesn't look like much on that Google Earth photo, but that little jaunt was over fifty miles round trip.
Back at the marina, La Gringa was taking some more photos while I worked on the fouled spark plugs. This is what one type of "glass bottomed boat" looks like out of the water:
With this design, people descend down a staircase and actually sit in comfortable chairs under the ocean with view ports in all directions. I think this would be a very cool way to see the reef, especially for small children or for people with conditions that keep them from diving on the reef. With the gin-clear water here, and the absolutely stunning reef running all the way around the country, this has got to be a very nice way to see it comfortably. And you can discuss what you are looking at with your family and friends. That's tough to do with a snorkel in your mouth.
This would be a much less stressful way to photograph sharks underwater, too. At least compared to the way we have been doing it.
Here is another view of the undersea seating area of the boat, from the other side:
We also noticed that the "Carribean Queen" paddle boat is in the boatyard at the moment. We had first seen this boat making its' way across the Caicos Bank a year or so ago.
We later met one of the owners at Turtle Cove, where he told us that the plan was to offer the boat for excursions and social events in Provo.
Just walking around the Caicos Marina, some of the other changes that are ongoing are apparent. For example, customers now have a place to grab a meal or just a cold drink here. The new little restaurant was closed on Sunday when we were there, but LaGringa had picked up a beer and a Coke when we were there on Saturday:
I am sure that the visiting crusiers and yachts who come here for fuel or repairs will be happy to know they no longer need to find a way to travel the very rough road to town in order to have a break from their own shipboard cooking.
Late yesterday I got the word that I am now officially allowed back in the water. So we should have some conch diving photos within the next few days, and we have some fishing trips planned for the weekend if the weather continues to cooperate. It is blowing hard from the North East right now, and that trip from the Caicos Marina to Leeward really beats up on us under these conditions.
I have tried to contact the Nikki Beach resort to find out if there might possibly be some way we could rent a boat slip from them, but so far, all I get are emails confirming that I am on their newsletter list. If we could arrange a place to keep the boat there in the canal behind the resort it would go a long, long way toward making it easier for us to get more boating in.
Maybe if we are persistent, we can find a human there instead of an automated email response.
(Warning: the rest of this post is for the hard core DIY types. Well maybe not hard core, but it certainly will be only of interest to home mechanics.)
Some of you may remember the photos we took while driving through the overflowing ocean around here during Hurricane Hannah. If you look at the tenth photo on this post: Hanna you will get an idea.
Well now, nine months later, the chickens have come home to roost. Or something to that effect. What happened was that while we have been driving the Land Rover daily, we didn't see any problems with the drive train. I am sure the daily movement kept it loose and lubed. BUT we just left it parked, stationary, for three weeks while we were away in the USA.
So, when we returned, and merrily took off down the hill, we heard funny noises and smelled funny smells. Kinda like brake lining. The hand brake also was not working right. It acted like it was not releasing, which would explain the funny smells. So,of course, someone had to look into it. And here, that would be me...
The first thing I found out was that Land Rover hand brakes (emergency brakes) are totally different from any hand brake I have ever seen before. Most of the cars I have seen over the years have a cable and spring arrangement that basically pulls the two rear brakes when you pull on the hand brake lever, or emergency brake handle. Real simple.
But not Land Rover. Nossir. What they have is an entire fifth brake setup that locks the rear drive shaft. Well, Land Rover doesn't call it that. They call it a propshaft. Confusing to a boat guy. But anyhow, this is what it looks like before all the cussing and skinned knuckles:
Yep, a typical brake drum. First you unbolt the front of the 'propshaft', and drop it down so you can remove the brake drum.
What a rusty mess. Looks like salt water might have gotten in there. I can't imagine how... (another hint: look at the second photo in this one Hanna Aftermath)
Anyhow, after several hours of cleaning and wiggling, I got it all working again. The brake shoes were not especially worn, it was just that all the little rusty parts were not letting the springs return them. A liberal dose of my new best friend Corrosion X, and it was working fine.
However, when dropping the propshaft, it didn't want to drop. So a closer examination of it revealed that the rear universal joint was totally toasted. A block of rust. Unfixable. Way too much oxide in the iron. Another victim of seawater. So, more unbolting to do:
And this is what the rear propshaft looks like removed from the Land Rover:
Well, here I started running into issues. I called the local Land Rover dealer, and yes, they had a universal joint in stock, for $ 108. Well, it has been probably ten or fifteen years since I last replaced a u-joint, but that seemed a bit steep to me. So I got on the trusty internet, and lo and behold found them for $ 20 in the USA. Whipping out the credit card, I ordered two of them on Friday afternoon, and by Tuesday morning I had a couple shiny new universal joints in hand. Total cost, two u-joints plus FedEx charges plus import duty...: $ 71. I reckon that is better than $ 108 for one. True, I had to wait a few days, but in our case we have another vehicle to drive. It was obviously worth it, and now I have a spare.
Some people take photos of their kids, their dogs, etc. On days like this, I just feel like taking a photo of a nice, shiny new universal joint. Knowing it will never look this good again, and that the next time I see it I am pretty sure it will be another rusty hunk of rust, courtesy of the tropics. But for now:
Beautiful, isn't it? Brings tears to my eyes. Shiny new metal is just so rare in my life these days.
Did you ever wonder what's inside a u-joint? I figured I might as well take a look, since I was going to have to take it apart to install it, anyway. Lots of gizmos in there:
Really just four sets of needle bearings, and some seals and dust caps. Sounds simple, until you drop one and all those needle bearings go flying all over the garage floor. Ask me how I know.
After only about two hours of more hammering, cleaning, grunting, and enriching the dog's vocabulary by leaps and bounds, we have a shiny new u-joint installed in the propshaft and ready to go back into the Land Rover between the transmission brake and the rear differential:
There's just one small problem...you see, the rear wheels are now locked up. Seems the disc brakes are frozen. I suspect something to do with seawater. And I will be digging into that shortly. But thats enough DIY for one post.